My That's a Big Rumor

By Mike Powers

          It’s been two weeks since I told you about my friend, Bradley Duncan. Within a couple of months of noticing a bump in his neck that he first thought was a zit, he had a baseball-size lump under his skin. When the Nurse Practitioner saw it, she scheduled an emergency trip to John Seely Hospital in Galveston, TDCJ’s (and thus, UTMB’s) medical facility for prisoners in East Texas. The specialist there told him, almost with a yawn, that it was probably lymph node cancer and told him he would be scheduled for an MRI.

          I’ve got to be honest here. I’m no medical professional, and I’m certainly no oncologist. That said, it seems to me that those times in my life when a friend or family member has been diagnosed with cancer, life went on red alert. Doctors would schedule biopsies, chemo or surgery, and all of these would be done in hours, not days, and certainly not weeks. Of course, everyone knows that time is the killer with cancer, and in Bradley’s case, especially, enough time had already been lost.

          While I haven’t much experience with oncology, I’ve far too much experience with medical care in the Texas prison system, and so I issued a “red alert” of my own, and asked the readers of these columns to start making phone calls on Bradley’s behalf, fighting for him where we can not.

It remains to be seen what effect this publicity has had, but I’m sad to say that so far, the medical professionals don’t seem to have a Eire under them. Bradley did leave for the hospital again yesterday, nearly two weeks since he got back from the first trip. As far as we’ve been told, it was for the MRI. Meanwhile, the tumor has clearly grown in size to that of a softball, and it has started affecting his ability to breathe and eat normally. In fact, when he swallows, he’s had to literally start pushing the growth over to the side to get his food down. A normal trip to the hospital takes three days, so barring other treatment, my friend should be back tomorrow. Frankly, I hope he’s not on that incoming chain, and it’s because he needs to be at that hospital getting serious treatment for a serious problem.

          At first, I was asking myself, as I imagine you probably are, “Why aren’t these people taking this seriously? Don’t they realize how big a deal this is?” And all kinds of answers go through my mind ranging from, “They don’t understand how bad it is and how East it’s growing,” to “They’re doing it on purpose so they don’t have to spend the money to treat him.” Believe me, I know how brutal that last one sounds, and you might think it’s over the top, but here’s what I haven’t told you, yet. Bradley is set For release from TDCJ custody in November. Guess what that means? Every hour, day or week they can prolong this “exploration” process is a day closer to the day they put him out the front doors and are no longer responsible for his medical bills. Ain’t that just grand? That’s a big incentive for doing nothing, especially when such a long history of utter calous disregard for inmate welfare is following them around like a big ball and chain. There are all kinds of prisons, my friend. In fact, I’m convinced that public reaction is the only thing that will truly motivate these people to do what they know is right in the first place. So please keep those calls coming to the ombudsman and your state elected officials.

          I would like to make it clear that the local, unit medical staff has been diligent in monitoring his progress and trying to get the medical appointments scheduled for him, but the folks in Galveston move according to their own logic and at their own speed, and like so many other aspects of prison administration, that logic is often opaque and impenetrable, and the speed is everless than desired. In fact, you’ve read my words before. Anyone in favor of socialized healthcare in America should be locked up and get to experience it first hand for themselves. Newsflash! It doesn’t work in here, and it won’t ever work out there. At least not like a free commerce system would work.

          If and when they finally start the chemo, I want you to know what my friend will be going through. He will be moved off of this facility to a unit where they have 24-hour medical care available. This means an immediate loss of support from the friendships he has built up while at this unit, and when leaving the Diboll unit, it means forsaking all this wonderful air conditioning, movies, and other creature comforts provided here.

          Once every other week, he’ll be put on chain bus again to return to Galveston for another round of chemo. He will be scheduled for further visits to monitor his progress. Each visit involves packing up his belongings and catching the chain bus, one of the most awful experiences in prison life, as I’ve told you before. This, of course, will be in addition to the terrible experience all chemo patients endure when battling cancer the sickness, the loss of hair, and all the rest.

          Each time he leaves for treatment, he will be assigned a different cell upon his return, so he will have to be continually adjusting to life with a new cellmate as he deals with the nausea and bowel problems caused by chemo. As you imagine these things, you can probably understand why many inmates would rather give up and die then go through the battle. In the free world, it’s hard. In prison, it’s hell.

          This may sound naive and simplistic, but beyond the tangible deeds of helping Bradley get the care he needs so badly, I’d also like to ask you to keep him lifted up in your prayers. Pray for his strength and recovery, and pray for his family to find comfort and peace through the storm.

The Attorneys
  • Francisco Hernandez
  • Daniel Hernandez
  • Phillip Hall
  • Rocio Martinez